Nutrition and MyPlate: Dairy

Milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt.

The dairy group includes foods that are made from milk and are also high in calcium (a nutrient that builds strong bones). If you're lactose-intolerant, special milk products can help. If you're allergic to dairy, be sure to get your calcium from leafy greens (such as mustard or collard greens) and from calcium-fortified foods (such as orange juice and soy products).

Nutrient-rich choices 

It's best to choose low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Nutrient-rich choices include:

  • Good old-fashioned milk (low-fat or nonfat). If you don't like the flavor, stir in a little chocolate syrup, or vanilla or almond extract. The nutrients in the milk outweigh the added calories.

  • Low-fat or nonfat cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt.

  • Foods made with these products, such as cream of broccoli soup made with nonfat milk or quesadillas made with low-fat cheese.

What makes dairy less healthy?

  • Many dairy products are high in fat. Always look for low-fat or nonfat varieties. You can ease into this. If you drink whole milk now, make the move to 2% milk first, then to nonfat or low-fat (1%) milk.

  • Most cheeses are high in fat. If you select a cheese with a strong taste, you may eat less than you would of a milder cheese. Also look for low-fat cheese or cheese made with part skim milk.

  • Added sugar, such as in ice cream and frozen yogurt, makes dairy products less healthy. Compare food labels to find brands lower in fat and calories.

One small change

Drink low-fat or nonfat milk with at least one meal each day. Have a better idea? Write it here: